Writers write for a purpose: to inform, to entertain, to persuade, to comfort, etc. Biblical writers also wrote with a purpose in mind. Their accounts are divinely inspired, and flow through the writer’s abilities, knowledge, and experiences. For instance, each of the four gospel writers penned from a somewhat different point of view and with slightly different emphasizes and style.
Using your Bible study skills to determine what the author’s purpose was is very helpful in understanding a biblical book. Comprehending the author’s purpose in writing also helps us to respond to his message appropriately. The author’s writing was meant to shape our hearts and our understanding. So, we want to ask, “By the leading of the Holy Spirit, what did the author intend for me to understand and grow in?”
So, we want to ask, “By the leading of the Holy Spirit, what did the author intend for me to understand and grow in?”
There are several ways that we can seek out the author’s purpose. In some biblical books the author tells you his purpose straight out. For instance, in 1 John 5:13 the author says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” In some biblical books authors don’t state their purpose straight out and you need to look for clues. These clues include looking for things emphasized by repetition of key words or ideas. For instance, how much space does the author give to certain ideas? Another tool is to notice how the author structures his book.
As an example, the Gospel of Matthew provides may clues for us through his repetition and structure. Matthew tells us ten times that a certain prophecy from the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Jesus by using the formula, “This is to fulfill….” More than that, Matthew describes Jesus as fulfilling 65 additional OT prophecies; and if that were not outstanding enough, Matthew includes approximately 262 allusions to Jesus fulfilling OT prophecies, people, and places such as Jesus going up on the mountain to teach the Law in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) as Moses did earlier (Exod. 19-20). These clues along with many others in Matthew’s Gospel show us that the author purposed to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah, royal Son of David, and eternal King! He leaves no doubt.
Additionally, in Matthew we see another purpose for his writing. This purpose can be seen by how much space Matthew devoted to Jesus’ teaching. Matthew structured his gospel to include five large blocks of Jesus’ teaching (5:1-7:28; 10:5-11:1; 13:3-53; 18:1 19:1; 24:1-26:1). All of these teaching end with the formula, “When Jesus had finished these words….” This shows us that this emphasis on Jesus’ teaching was intentionally planned by Matthew. The author included more of Jesus’ teachings that any other gospel. Why? Because Matthew purposed for you and I to grow as disciples through sitting at Jesus’ feet and following Him as Matthew did.
Matthew purposed for you and I to grow as disciples through sitting at Jesus’ feet and following Him as Matthew did.
To wrap up these dual purposes for Matthew’s Gospel, we can see irrefutably according to prophecy that Jesus is the King of glory, the King of all creation, the promised Son of David who will sit on the throne of David forever! Therefore, how should we who call upon His name respond? How should we walk with our King as His people? Matthew ably shows us how to be disciples as we travel with Jesus through this gospel.
Finding the purpose of any biblical book is a major key to understanding and responding to a biblical author’s inspired message. God bless you as you grow in the grace and knowledge of God!